Facts about Generators

Portable electric generators can be a good way to keep lights, refrigerators and other appliances running if a power outage occurs.

If a residential member depends on medical equipment that uses electricity, a portable generator can provide much-needed power in an emergency. However, improper installation or use can be dangerous to you, your property, and our line workers who may be working in the area.

If you have a standby generator, be sure that it’s installed safely and call Kenergy to let the co-op know you have one. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid injuring someone or damaging your generator or appliances.

Using a Generator

Consider using the generator for necessities only, like lighting and refrigeration. These items can be plugged directly into the generator using a UL-listed, three pronged extension cord of the proper size with the generator.

Be safe

Never plug a generator directly into any electric outlets or hook up a generator directly to your home’s wiring. Generators can feed electricity back into the power lines when the necessary equipment used to isolate the generator from the incoming power lines is not installed. This backfeeding of electricity places you and Kenergy line workers in extreme danger. The safest thing to do is connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.

Install properly

When a generator is permanently connected to a member’s electric system, it energizes the building’s wiring. This type of installation requires a double-throw transfer switch that isolates the generator from Kenergy’s system when the generator is in use.

The transfer switch keeps the generator from backfeeding into Kenergy’s system, putting members and co-op line workers in danger. The transfer switch also keeps Kenergy’s power from re-energizing the building’s wiring while the generator is running. This protects the generator, wiring and appliances or equipment from damage when service is restored.

Only a qualified professional, such as a licensed electric contractor, should install a permanent standby generator. If you already own a permanently installed standby generator but you don’t know if it’s installed properly, call your local building inspector or licensed contractor for help. You are responsible for any injuries or damage to your property, or your neighbors’ or Kenergy’s property, from an improperly installed or operated generator.

Handle fuel carefully

Turn off the generator and let it cool down before refueling.

Gasoline and its vapors can catch on fire if they come in contact with an electrical spark.

Store fuel for the generator in an approved safety can. Use the type of fuel recommended in the instructions or on the label on the generator.

Store fuel for the generator outdoors in a locked shed or other protected area. Do not store fuel in a garage, basement or anywhere inside a home, as vapors can be released that may cause illness and are a potential fire or explosion hazard.

Good ventilation is important — Generators produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, toxic gas that can result in serious injuries or even death if levels become too high.

For this reason, the generator should never be operated inside your home, garage, office building or other enclosed space. It should always be located outside in a dry location. It is a good idea to install one or more carbon monoxide (CO) alarms inside your home (following manufacturer’s installation directions). If carbon monoxide from the generator enters your home and poses a health risk, the alarm will sound to warn you.

Purchasing a Generator

If you choose to buy a generator, make sure you get one that is listed with the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM).

If you do not plan on plugging your electrical item directly into the generator, your home’s power supply needs to have a disconnect to the main power feeding lines. Power you put into your home from a generator could “backfeed” into the main line and cause problems for the electrical utility company, your neighbors or you.

There are a number of products available that will provide either an automatic or manual transfer between two power sources in a manner prescribed by the National Electric Code® (NEC®). When selecting a product for this function, it should be one that has been evaluated for safe performance by a nationally recognized testing organization such as Underwriters Laboratories.

The product must be installed according to the NEC®, all applicable state and local codes, and the manufacturer’s instructions. Only a qualified professional, such as a licensed electric contractor, should install such items.

Residential generators do not supply enough amperage to supply sufficient power for today’s entire homes (that is, to run a furnace, lighting, appliances, and other electronic equipment). Look at the labels on lighting, appliances, and equipment you plan to connect to the generator to determine the amount of power that will be needed to operate the equipment.

For lighting, the wattage of the light bulb indicates the power needed. Appliances and equipment usually have labels indicating power requirements on them.

Choose a generator that produces more power than will be drawn by the combination of lighting, appliances, and equipment you plan to connect to the generator including the initial surge when it is turned on. If your generator does not produce adequate power for all your needs, plan to stagger the operating times for various equipment. If you cannot determine the amount of power that will be needed to operate your appliances, lighting and equipment, ask an electrician to determine that for you. (If your equipment draws more power than the generator can produce, then you may blow a fuse on the generator or damage the connected equipment.)

If you have additional questions, please consult a licensed electrician or Kenergy.